By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Chris Reed went from afterthought to spotlight over the course of a summer and he's been saving the Stanford baseball team all season.
The lefthander was named the Atlantic Collegiate Summer League's top prospect after going 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 11 appearances. That came after spinning his wheels for two years at Stanford, walking 17 and striking out 15 in 23 innings. He was 2-0 with a 7.04 ERA.
"He's always had potential," Stanford pitching coach Rusty Filter said. "He was a different kid in the fall. He came back a little more aggressive."
Reed turned that potential into production this season, striking out 48 and walking just 14 in 48 innings while compiling a 6-2 record and 2.61 ERA. He also recorded eight saves, one more than Drew Storen saved in 2009, when he was a first-round draft pick by the Washington Nationals. It was the most saves by a Cardinal in a single season since Matt Manship had nine in 2003.
Reed, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph, created some buzz with his summer output and put himself on the map with a solid spring. He's projected as a late first- or second-round pick when the First-Year Player Draft begins Monday at 4 p.m.
Nationally No. 21 Stanford (30-20) will depend on Reed's arm as it opens regional play in Fullerton against Kansas State on Friday at 4 p.m.
"A lot of it, with him, has to do with getting into a routine," Filter said. "He's a big, strong kid who went out this past summer, kept working hard, and had some success."
Reed, who had one start to begin the year in which he gave up seven earned runs, has a 1.85 ERA as a reliever. Mark Appel was slated to be the Cardinal closer but an injury to lefthander Brett Mooneyham forced changes in the pitching staff. It turned out well for Reed.
"You never know when things click for players," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. "They develop at different times. He was inconsistent and he struggled with his command. He was a middle reliever. Chris worked hard and it all came together. Now he's a first-round draft pick."
Appel (5-6, 3.02) worked out well for Stanford too. He became the staff ace. He also marvels at Reed's progress.
"It's been awesome to watch him grow to where he is now from when he first got here," Appel said. "You see him in the weight room and you see him working on the field. He deserves his role and whatever happens in the draft."
Reed earned honorable mention on the All-Pac-10 Conference team. Brian Ragira was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and Stephen Piscotty was named a first-team selection. Kenny Diekroeger, Jake Stewart, Tyler Gaffney, and Austin Wilson also were honorable mention.
Stanford swept California in its final Pac-10 series last weekend, winning 3-2 and 4-2 and was leading 7-1 in the third game before getting rained out in the fourth inning. The Cardinal enters the postseason with eight wins in its past 11 contests.
"Over the years you learn it doesn't make much difference who you play," Marquess said. "At this time of the year you know you're playing a good team."
Fullerton (40-15) and Illinois (28-25) meet in the other first-round game of the double-elimination tournament at 8 p.m. All games will be televised on ESPNU.
Gaffney, a sophomore, brings a 17-game hitting streak as Stanford, which has won 11 of its past 15 games, makes its 30th trip into the postseason. Stanford hopes to make its 17th trip to the College World Series.
Gaffney has seen his average rise to .320, third on the team behind Piscotty (.361) and Ragira (.321). Wilson (.313), another freshman, also has been a surprise.
Menlo School grads Kenny Diekroeger and Danny Diekroeger also have made an impact for the Cardinal. Kenny has started 51 games, is hitting .298 with two home runs and 29 RBI.
Danny has worked his way into the lineup as a left-handed designated hitter. He's hitting .276 and has appeared in 16 games, most of them in the second half of the season. He had two RBI wiped out by rain on Saturday.
Stanford is 13-9 against the tournament field, which includes games against national seeds Vanderbilt, Texas and Rice. The Cardinal played all three of them within its first 11 games.
Stanford finished fifth in the Pac-10, which have six schools heading to the postseason. Arizona State, Oregon State and UCLA each host a regional while California plays at Rice and Arizona heads to Texas A&M.
Kansas State, which won the Big 12 tournament, makes its third straight NCAA appearance. The Wildcats have won eight of their past 11 and finished sixth in their conference.
Jason King brings a 16-game hitting streak into the fray for Kansas State, which also features Mountain View native Evan Marshall (5-5, 1.17), the Wildcats' set-up man in the bullpen.
Illinois makes its ninth NCAA appearance and first since 2000 after winning the Big Ten tournament. Dan Harleb is in his fifth season as head coach, guiding the Fighting Illini to the Big Ten tournament in each of his five seasons.
The Big West champion Titans are making their 33rd NCAA appearances and are in the postseason for the 20th straight year. Dave Serrano is in his fifth season, having coached the Titans to Big West titles in four seasons. He has coached UC Irvine (2007) and Fullerton (2009) to the College World Series.